Friday, September 19, 2008


There's a chill in the air this morning driving to work and that could only mean one is back. That fresh air of Fall is making it's way on to Long Island and it's time to get down to business. The boys in Orange and Blue are flying up to Moncton tonight and the day Islander fans have been waiting for this entire summer in the doldrums is finally here. Training camp begins at 9 AM tomorrow and the Pre-Season schedule begins next week. In an effort to shore everyone's knowledge up before the season gets into full swing, I'm presenting the first of a series of blogs on the NHL's Standard of Play initiative beginning with Hooking.

What is deemed as a Hooking penalty in this day and age is drastically different from what it was 10 years ago. In the modern NHL (and even USA Hockey) the phrase to watch out for is "impeded progress". For those fans who don't really know what this might mean in a hockey sense let me quote from USA Hockey's Rulebook (which is similar if not exactly mirroring the NHL):

"A player cannot use his/her stick against an opponent's (puck carrier or non-puck carrier) to gain a positional advantage. Examples include:

  • tugs or pulls on the body, arms or hands of the opponent which allows for the space between the players to diminish
  • placing the stick in front of the opponent's body and locking on-impeding the opponent's progress or causing a loss of balance
  • stick on the hand/arm that takes away the ability for the opponent to pass or shoot the puck with a normal amount of force"
As I stated in the Preview to this series, there are several things that officials need to look for especially when assessing a Hooking penalty. First, is it an obvious tug or pull? Second, does it impede the opponent's progress? Third, where is the stick in relation to the opponent's body? Is it on the hands, around the ankles, knees, thighs or stick? That's alot to process in a game where speed is at a premium. Now let's go over some situations where you might find a penalty to call or a good hockey play.

Let's say a winger off the draw is attempting to get to the defenseman at the point after the opponent wins the faceoff back. If in any way his counterpart on the opposing team either slows him down or prevents him completely from reaching the intended destination with a stick to the midsection or on the legs or hands, this situation requires a penalty. IT IS NO LONGER A REQUIREMENT THAT THE OPPOSING PLAYER GO DOWN AS A RESULT OF THE HOOK! It could be the slightest tug or pull and that's considered a penalty.

A situation where a player would most likely not be called for a penalty might look like this: a defenseman is backing into his zone with a forward bearing down on him. The defenseman is allowed to keep his established skating lane and defend is area of the ice. If the forward were to chip the puck past the defenseman and tried to pass on the outside the defenseman in an effort to keep that attacking player in check reverses direction and is now skating with the attacking player. The defenseman then extends his stick in front of the attacking player, keeping it on the lower half of the body but is not impeding the attacking player's progress of trying to regain control of puck. This is a legal hockey play and is encouraged as it requires skill to keep that established skating lane.

Finally, let me address the most common misconception for a hooking Penalty. As fans, we have all heard the phrase "parallel to the ice". It is assumed that as soon as the stick reaches this position and is within a general distance of an opposing player that a penalty is automatically assessed. This is certainly not the case. Just because the stick is parallel to the ice doesn't mean it is being used to pull, tug or impede the opposing player in an effort to close the gap between the players. This is something to watch out for early in the season as you might see officials react too quickly to this action by the players. Trust me everything is a learning curve and the Situation Manual I have for the several levels I officiate is twice the size of the actual rulebook.

Things to take away from this post are: Hooking is either a really obvious penalty to recognize or it can really be difficult as it is the most common of the stick infractions and can appear in many forms. As an educated fan, you'll be able to understand what a penalty really is and what a good hockey play looks like as it develops. For the next installment of the Standard of Play series, I'll be addressing both Holding and Interference and what they mean in today's wide open style of the NHL.

Paul Stewart demonstrates the signal for Hooking

Photo Courtesy of

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